Saturday, August 31, 2013

Operation Thumbs Down: Dozens Of Members Of Violent Street Gang Charged With Narcotics And Weapons Violations Following Joint Investigation In Los Angeles

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI released the below information on August 29th:

LOS ANGELES—Over 800 hundred law enforcement officers and agents served dozens of arrest and search warrants this morning in Operation Thumbs Down, an 18-month investigation that targeted members and associates of the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips, a South Los Angeles street gang that ranks among the Los Angeles Police Department’s top targeted street gangs, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles; Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of FBI in Los Angeles; Charlie Beck, the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; and Mike Feuer, the City Attorney in Los Angeles.

Thirty-five defendants currently charged with federal and state violations are in custody following this morning’s Operation Thumbs Down, an investigation initiated in 2012 to identify and target high-level members of the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips, a gang known for violence in the community it claims as its territory. Several remaining defendants charged at either the state or federal level were already in custody on unrelated charges or are considered fugitives currently being sought by task force members. The investigation was dubbed Thumbs Down by the task force in reference to hand gestures used by this gang, including two thumbs pointed upward, representing the “H” in the word “Harlem.”

The Rollin 30s Crips is a known multi-generational violent gang that operates primarily in South Los Angeles and has ties to other gangs with whom they are known to have violent disputes. The Rollin’ 30s is composed of three factions, known as “cliques” or “sets,” identified as The Avenues, Denker Park, and 39th Street. Each clique claims different geographical territories within the gang’s overall claimed territory, and has its own respective leaders or "shotcallers," who direct the gang’s criminal activity. Law enforcement estimates there are between 700 and 1,000 Rollin 30s gang members. During Operations Thumbs Down, task force members targeted these “shotcallers” within the Rollin’ 30s’ criminal enterprise.

Twenty-one defendants were named in federal indictments returned by a grand jury in United States District Court in Los Angeles. The federal indictments charge the defendants with a variety of narcotics and weapons violations, including: possession of cocaine base (“crack”) with intent to distribute; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (“crack”); felon in possession of a firearm; maintaining drug-involved premises; and unlicensed dealing in firearms.

Those charged federally are listed below:
  • Stephen Bayliss, aka “Iceberg”—30, currently in federal custody
  • Michael Byars, aka “Wanetti”—55, Inglewood
  • Jesus De La Hoya, aka “Jesse”—40, Mira Loma
  • Anthoney Edwards, aka “Three Leaf”—23, currently in state custody
  • Frank Fisher, aka “Boons”—23, Los Angeles
  • Rayeisha Glenn, aka “Ray Ray”—35, Los Angeles
  • Kenneth Green, aka “Gin”—36, Los Angeles
  • Kevin Green, aka “Young Watt”—31, Los Angeles
  • Jovan Harris, aka “Headache”—34, Los Angeles
  • Clavern Luckett, aka “Uncle D”—38, Los Angeles
  • Gary Luckett, aka “Uncle Gary”—39, Los Angeles
  • Kelly Martin, aka “Cartoon”—43, Compton
  • Don Mosley, aka “Whino”—34, currently in state custody
  • Edward Norwood, aka “Polo”—33, Los Angeles
  • Brandon Robertson, aka “BK”—31, Los Angeles
  • Alan Ross, aka “Big Choo”—37, Los Angeles
  • Darlene Sebatta—38, Los Angeles
  • Ernest Sluch, aka “E-Rocc”—47, Los Angeles
  • Jason Thurton, aka “CT”—35, Long Beach
  • Emerie Tims, aka “Mac”—34, Long Beach
  • Moses Williams, aka “Termite”—34, Los Angeles
Several additional cases were filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, many of whom are in custody following this morning’s operation. In addition to the arrests made this morning, task force members also served 34 federal search warrants and seized a variety of firearms and quantities of narcotics. During the investigation, the task force augmented its suppression efforts by partnering with agencies in order to address long-term community stability. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office is pursuing civil actions to include property abatement, evictions, and case conferences for gang-controlled locations. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD-OIG) is addressing violations related to Section 8 Housing, which will include the removal of tenants.

Crime statistics indicate there have been 29 homicides within the past five years in the gang’s territory, which incorporates the neighborhood between Jefferson Avenue, Martin Luther King Avenue, Normandie Avenue, and Crenshaw Avenue. In addition, approximately 1100 robberies and 1075 assaults have been reported in the 1.5 square mile area that comprises the gang’s claimed territory. The Rollin 30s Harlem Crips is also suspected of committing a series of residential or “knock-knock” burglaries, referred to by the gang as “floccin.” Police departments in multiple counties throughout Southern California are investigating members of the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips in connection with these robberies.

Throughout the investigation and prior to today, task force members arrested 60 Rollin’ 30s gang members and associates for state violations, seized 32 firearms, and seized in excess of 10 kilograms of rock cocaine.

Nineteen of the 21 federal defendants are in custody and two are considered fugitives. Three of the federal defendants were already incarcerated on unrelated charges and are expected to be transferred to federal custody.

Many of the federal defendants face mandatory-minimum prison terms ranging from five to 10 years, depending on the quantities of narcotics alleged and individual criminal histories, and maximum penalties of 20 or 30 years in federal prison. Federal defendants arrested today will make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles this afternoon.

This case is the result of an investigation by members of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Los Angeles Police Department; the United States Attorney’s Office; and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

Multiple agencies assisted the task force during this investigation and today’s operation, including the United States Secret Service; the Department of Child and Family Services; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the Los Angeles County Department of Probation; and agencies that participate on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agency (HIDTA).

The federal defendants will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. The defendants arrested for violations of California state law will be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Additional information about violent street gangs across America can be found at

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Stephen Hunter's 'I, Sniper'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of I, Sniper below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Michael Connelly's 'Nine Dragons'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of William F. Buckley's 'The Reagan I Knew'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of William F. Buckley's The Reagan I Knew below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Joseph Pistone's 'The Way Of The Wiseguy: True Stories From The FBI's Most Famous Undercover Agent'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Joseph Pistone's The Way of the Wiseguy: True Stories From the FBI's Most Famous Undercover Agent below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review of Scott W. Carmichael's 'True Believer: Inside the Investigation And Capture Of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Scott W. Carmichael's True Believer: Inside the Investigation and capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of George Anastasia's 'The Last Gangster'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia's The Last Gangster below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of William F. Buckley's 'Last Call For Blackford Oakes'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of William F. Buckley's Last Call for Blackford Oakes below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Michael Connelly's 'The Brass Verdict'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Sebastian Faulks' 'Devil May Care'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Sebastian Faulks's James Bond continuation novel Devil May Care below:

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My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Joseph Wambaugh's 'Hollywood Station'

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Joseph Wambaugh's cop novel Hollywood Station below:

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Con Artist Gets His Due For Scamming Nuns

The FBI reports on the creep conman who scammed nuns.

There’s no limit to how low con artists will go to swindle victims out of their money—often targeting the elderly, the terminally ill, homeowners on the brink of losing their homes, even the lonely looking for companionship online.

Here’s another category of victims to add to that list: members of religious communities who spend their lives tending to the sick and the poor.

Earlier this month, a New Jersey man was sentenced to 18 years in prison.for defrauding members of the Puerto Rico-based Dominican Sisters of the Rosary of Fatima and others of more than a million dollars. He was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to his victims.

The scheme began back in 2009, when Adriano Sotomayor—born in Puerto Rico—obtained names and telephone numbers of certain Roman Catholic nuns and priests on the island…including an elderly nun from the Sisters of Fatima. Claiming to be a New Jersey priest, he called and said a deceased member of his parish community had named her the beneficiary of a $2.1 million estate. Sotomayor also told the nun that before receiving her funds, she had to wire money to the company handling the will—a New Jersey-based business called Flex Account—to cover various taxes, processing, and legal fees.

Of course, none of it was true.

You can read the rest of the piece via th below link:

You can also read an earlier post on the con job on the nuns via the below link:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

South Philly Mom Galvanizes Community To Take On Crime

Sarah Glover at NBC 10 Philadelphia wrote a piece on a South Philadelpia mom who is taking on crime.

Carol Lanni has turned to social media to fight crime and protect her South Philadelphia neighborhood.

Lanni started a Facebook page, Taking Back Our South Philadelphia Streets Back, just days after her 11 year-old son was robbed earlier this month.

"I started this page out of total frustration,” said Lanni.

"My child was mugged on Saturday, August 3. Thank God he wasn’t killed, hurt or harmed. I never feared the South Philly streets until it was this close to home.”

The single mother of three said her son was surrounded by a group of teens who stole his iPhone. The boy was on his bike with another friend, just around the corner from his house on Oregon

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The above photo of Carol Lanni was taken by Sarah Glover.

Fort Hood Shooter Sentenced To Death offers a piece on the Fort Hood shooter who was sentenced to death.

FORT HOOD, Texas - A military jury yesterday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom by making almost no effort to defend himself.

The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an Army hardened by more than a decade of constant war. Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted "Allahu akbar" - Arabic for "God is great!" - and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. Thirteen people were killed.

Hasan, who said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, had no visible reaction when the sentence was announced, staring first at the jury forewoman and then at the judge.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

Member Of Al Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Indicted In Brooklyn Federal Court

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information on Tuesday:

An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging a Nigerian citizen with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and using high-powered firearms in furtherance of that crime. The United States is currently seeking the extradition of the defendant, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, also known as “Abdullah” and “Ayatollah Mustapha,” from Nigeria.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division; and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office. United States Attorney Lynch acknowledged the continued cooperation and assistance of the government of Nigeria in terrorism matters affecting both nations.

According to court documents, between approximately January 2010 and August 2011, the defendant traveled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to meet and train with leaders of AQAP, the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda. Babafemi assisted in AQAP’s English-language media operations, which include the publication of the magazine “Inspire.” At the direction of the now-deceased senior AQAP commander Anwar al-Aulaqi, Babafemi was provided by AQAP leadership with the equivalent of almost $9,000 in cash to recruit other English-speakers from Nigeria to join that group. While in Yemen, Babafemi also received weapons training from AQAP.

On February 21, 2013, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a sealed indictment charging the defendant with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to AQAP, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B; one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to AQAP, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B; one count of unlawful use of machine guns, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c); and one count of conspiracy to unlawfully use machine guns, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(o). At the request of the United States, the Nigerian government thereafter commenced extradition proceedings against the defendant in July 2013.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The case is assigned to the United States District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Zainab Ahmad and Hilary Jager, with assistance from Trial Attorney William M. Narus of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and Trial Attorney Timothy Hammer of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant:
Age: 33

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Washington Times Review Of 'Manson: The Life And Times Of Charles Manson

My review of Jeff Guinn's Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson appears in the Washington Times today.

Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry's “Helter Skelter” is a great true-crime book and up until now I would have said that it was the definitive book on murderer and cult leader Charles Manson.

Now, having read Jeff Guinn’s “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson,” I realize that there was much more to this odd and horrible man.

Mr. Bugliosi, the prosecutor in the Manson trial, penned an excellent account of how, in 1969, Manson and his “family” brutally murdered seven people, including the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, as well as the subsequent investigation and trial. But Mr. Guinn offers a full biography of one of America’s most infamous criminals.

Through extensive interviews with Manson’s surviving relatives, friends, cellmates and members of his family, Mr. Guinn offers us a view of the young Manson, beginning with his West Virginia childhood.

... Perhaps only during this era of peace, love and excessive drug use could a sociopath like Manson convince people that he was both Christ reincarnated — and the fifth Beatle. He warns his band of followers, mostly young women, that based on the Book of Revelation and Beatles’ albums, there is a coming apocalyptic race war that he called “Helter Skelter,” after the Beatles’ song. But Manson still wants to be a rock star, despite being a mediocre guitar player and songwriter. He moves his family to Los Angeles and befriends Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and other people in the music business by offering them sex with his girls.

Mr. Guinn explains that as Manson's dreams of being a rock star faded, he imbued his followers with two core beliefs: that he had to be obeyed and that the members of the family were the most special people on Earth. Manson persuaded them that they were destined to rule the world after Helter Skelter. He then directed these drug-crazed followers to commit multiple vicious murders.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy Birthday To C.S. Forester, Author of the Horatio Hornblower Novels

As notes, C.S. Forester was born on this date in 1899.

British writer C.S. Forester was born on August 27, 1899, in Cairo, Egypt.

He wrote many popular novels, but his most famous character was Horatio Hornblower, a British navel officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He wrote 12 novels about Hornblower.

He also worked as reporter in London for The Times. During World War II, he wrote propaganda to convince the U.S. to join the Allies. He died in 1966.

You can visit the Library of Congress page on Forester's Hornblower series via the below link:

Note: I read and enjoyed the Hornblower novels as a teenager and I liked Gregory Peck's portrayal of Hornblower in the film Captain Horatio Hornblower. I also enjoyed Ioan Gruffudd's more recent portrayal of a younger Hornblower in the A&E series.

FBI Offers Up To $50,000 Reward For Information For The Murder Of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis

The FBI released the below information yesterday:

Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the Kentucky Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced that the FBI is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the death of Bardstown, Kentucky Police Officer Jason Ellis.

It has been three months since the tragic death of Officer Ellis.

In the early hours of May 25, 2013, Officer Ellis was gunned down in what appears to be a carefully planned ambush. Jason Ellis leaves behind his wife and two young sons.

The FBI and the Kentucky State Police appeal to anyone who has information to call the FBI at (502) 263-6000 or the Kentucky State Police at (270) 766-5078. 

Note: The above photo of Police Officer Jason Ellis was provided by the FBI.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Buchan To 'Bond, James Bond'

As Steve King at notes, today is the birthday of the late writer John Buchan.

On this day in 1875, the lawyer-politician-writer John Buchan was born, in Perth, Scotland.

Buchan wrote prolifically and in almost all genres, but he is best known for his spy-adventure novels, particularly the first "Richard Hannay" book, The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Some trace the spy genre back to The Spy (1821) by James Fenimore Cooper, and others regard Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands (1903) as the beginning, but most give Buchan credit for the kind of espionage thriller-he called them "shockers" -- that would eventually arrive at James Bond.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Krauthammer: Brotherhood Vs Military In Egypt

Charles Krauthammer in his syndicated column looks at the choice between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military in Egypt.

Egypt today is a zero-sum game. We'd have preferred there be a democratic alternative.

Unfortunately, there is none. The choice is binary: the country will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood or by the military.

Perhaps the military should have waited three years for the intensely unpopular Mohamed Morsi to be voted out of office. But Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi seems to have calculated that by then there would be no elections - as in Gaza, where the Palestinian wing of the Brotherhood, Hamas, elected in 2006, established a one-man-one-vote-one-time dictatorship.

What's the United States to do? Any response demands two considerations: (a) moral, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for Egypt, and (b) strategic, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for U.S. interests and those of the free world.

You can read the rest of the column at the Philadelphia Inquirer via the below link:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Friends And Family Pay Tribute To Elmore Leonard At His Funeral

The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on Elmore Leonard's funeral.

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (AP) — Friends, family and fans remembered award-winning crime novelist Elmore Leonard during a funeral service in suburban Detroit that was equal parts laughter and tears.

Author, sports writer and friend Mike Lupica said Leonard himself would have appreciated the tone of Saturday's Mass at Holy Name Church in Birmingham.

The 87-year-old Leonard died Tuesday in his Bloomfield Township home from complications from a stroke.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read Deadline Detroit's account of Elmore Leonard's funeral, which notes that Leonard was a Navy veteran, via the below link:

Note: I've reading Elmore Leonard for many years and I reread his great crime novels every couple of years. With the news of his death, I pulled Split Images from my library and I'm now rereading Elmore Leonard's cool crime thriller.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Outgoing FBI Director Warns That Al Qaeda Danger May Not Have Passed

FBI Director Robert Mueller was interviewed by Fox News.

Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller told Fox News Thursday that Al Qaeda “may well have postponed” its plan to attack U.S. diplomatic sites in the Middle East and Africa after Washington scrambled to close them before any terror assault could be staged.

In an interview with Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge, Mueller said, “we are closely monitoring the situation” but warned the danger had not passed.

“I would say that it may well have been postponed,” Mueller said of a credible and specific Al Qaeda terror threat that led to the closures of U.S. embassies and consulates across a wide swath of the Muslim world earlier this month.

You can read the rest of the story and watch the TV news clip via the below link:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fort Hood Shooter Guilty On All Counts reports that accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan was found guilty of all chages.

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan was found guilty on all 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder Friday, making him eligible for the death penalty.
The sentencing phase of his trial was set to begin Monday.

A military jury deliberated for roughly one day before announcing the verdict.

Hasan sat emotionless, stroking his beard when the judge announced a verdict had been reached. He stood and looked at the juror panel president when the verdict was read, then turned and looked back down.

A few family members of the victims cried and hugged each other at the announcement, but there were no courtroom outbursts.

Hasan was charged with 13 counts of pre-meditated murder and 32 counts of attempted pre-meditated murder in the Nov. 2009 shooting attack at the sprawling Texas military base.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

Alleged Members Of Violent Loan Sharking And Illegal Gambling Organization Charged In Philadelphia

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:

An indictment was unsealed today charging nine people in a loan sharking and illegal gambling ring allegedly run out of several Philadelphia businesses.

The charges were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Edward J. Hanko, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.
Ylli Gjeli, 48, Fatimir Mustafaraj, 41, George Markakis, 43, Gezim Asllani, 34, Rezart Rahmi Telushi, 40, Eneo Jahaj, 26, and Ardit Pone, 35, all of Philadelphia; Erion Murataj, 35, of Huntingdon Valley, Penn.; and Brian Jackson, 35, of Harleysville, Penn., were arrested this morning. 

The defendants are named in an indictment charging racketeering conspiracy, racketeering collection of unlawful debt, making extortionate extensions of credit, collections of extensions of credit by extortionate means, operating an illegal gambling business and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

“The indictment unsealed today charges nine defendants with operating a criminal enterprise built on illegal gambling and a violent extortion racket,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. 

“The Justice Department will not stand by as criminal organizations victimize our communities.  Today’s charges demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working alongside our federal, state and local counterparts to root out organized crime.”

“The indictment charges the defendants with running a violent loan sharking and gambling enterprise, using intimidation, threats and actual violence as part of their illegal business,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “We will not tolerate this type of criminal activity that preys upon financial weakness and threatens the physical safety of the individuals in debt and their innocent family members.”
“The defendants allegedly victimized people twice over,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Hanko.  “They provided loans at outrageous interest rates to those unable to obtain loans from traditional sources and then used threats and violence to collect on those illegal loans.  Today's arrests demonstrate the FBI’s continued commitment to ridding Philadelphia of organized crime, wherever we find it.”

“Individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Akeia Conner.  “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice.”

According to the indictment, the defendants and their associates used businesses located in Philadelphia – including the Lion Bar, Blackbird CafĂ©, “Ylli’s 2 Brothers,” First England Pizza and various coffee shops, among others – to conduct the enterprise’s loan sharking activities and illegal gambling business.  The defendants allegedly generated money by making and collecting on loans with usurious rates of interest; using intimidation, threats and violence to make and collect on loans; and making loans to betting customers whose debts were incurred through the enterprise’s illegal gambling business.

Members and associates of the enterprise allegedly cultivated their reputation for violence by threatening customers with dangerous weapons such as a firearm or hatchet; using implied threats and intimidation; telling customers that if they did not pay their debts someone would kill them, break their legs or physically harm them or their family members in some other way; and physically assaulting subordinate members and associates.  For example, the indictment alleges that Gjeli asked a customer why he had come to the basement of the Lion Bar.  He then grabbed a hatchet with one hand, grabbed the customer’s arm with the other hand and slammed the hatchet onto the table right after the customer pulled his hand away.  It is further alleged that defendant Gjeli placed a gun to the same customer’s head and threatened him.

 It is further alleged that the defendants attempted to conceal the existence and operations of the enterprise from law enforcement by: limiting their discussions of criminal activities when on the phone, using cryptic and coded language to describe criminal activities, such as “pizza” to describe a loan; conducting pat-downs and body searches of customers to check for weapons and recording devices; and conducting the enterprise’s transactions primarily in cash.

According to the indictment, Gjeli was a leader and “boss” of the organization; Mustafaraj, aka “Tony,” was a leader and “muscle.”  Both allegedly directed other members in the loan sharking activities and illegal gambling business, approved loans, used intimidation and threats of violence against customers, collected weekly loan payments, physically assaulted subordinate members and their associates, supervised the illegal gambling business, provided cash to pay customer’s gambling wins and otherwise financed the gambling business, collected gambling debts and made loans to customers whose debts were incurred through the illegal gambling business. 

Markakis, aka “George the Greek” and “Fat George,” was allegedly a leader of the enterprise who directed other members in the illegal gambling business.  Murataj, aka “Ben” and “Paul,” and Asllani, aka “Sam,” were allegedly “collectors” who assisted Gjeli and Mustafaraj in making loans and regularly collected weekly loan payments from customers.  Telushi, aka “Luigi,” was allegedly a “collector” who regularly collected weekly loan payments from customers. 

Jahaj, aka “Nimo,” Jackson, aka “Mark,” and Pone were allegedly “bookies” who operated parts of the illegal gambling business and regularly collected gambling debts.  Jahaj and Jackson also allegedly set up and administered online accounts to facilitate customer betting and used the enterprise’s loan sharking activities to convert the gambling debts to loans.

If convicted of all charges, Gjeli and Mustafaraj face a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The remaining defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

An indictment is an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Pennsylvania State Police, Montgomery County, Penn., Detectives and the New Jersey State Police.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Salvatore L. Astolfi and Trial Attorney Jerome Maiatico of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.

Surveillance: An American Success Story

Ronald Kessler, veteran journalist and author of several books on the FBI and the CIA, offers a good piece in Politico in defense of surveillance in the name of security.

It’s fine for Democrats and Republicans to target potential voters based on what they buy, whether they attend a church or a synagogue, or whether they subscribe to hunting magazines or contribute to the Sierra Club.

It seems to be fine for Gmail to read our email messages to target us with ads tailored to whether we are about to get married, vote for a certain candidate, or purchase a house.

But what’s not fine, according to many in the media and politicians on the extreme left and extreme right, is for the government to store telephone numbers in case a warrant is needed at some point in the future to uncover the identity of a terrorist plotting to kill thousands of Americans.

Never mind that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the practice of obtaining telephone call records without a warrant. Never mind that a warrant must be obtained for the FBI to listen to a call. Never mind that no actual abuse has been found.

To be sure, errors — which the National Security Agency (NSA) has itself uncovered — occur, just as newspapers make errors that they correct daily. But no one has been able to cite a case of the government actually “spying on innocent Americans,” a breathless term used freely by the media and critics to imply improper intent.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Military Jurors Begin Deliberations In Fort Hood Shooting Rampage Case

An Associated Press piece on reports that the military jurors have begun deliberations in the Fort Hood case.

The Army psychiatrist on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood passed on his final chance to address jurors on Thursday, even after prosecutors insisted he carried out a planned attack and asked jurors for a verdict that would allow the death penalty.

Maj. Nidal Hasan is acting as his own attorney but declined to plead his case after prosecutors wrapped up their closing argument. When the judge told Hasan he could begin, he said: "The defense chooses not to make a closing statement."

Hasan is facing numerous counts of premeditated murder for the attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Army post in central Texas. It was the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base.

Prosecutors insisted there was no question that Hasan planned and carried out the attack.
"The facts I laid out to you give you only one option," the prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, told jurors. "The accused without a doubt -- without any doubt at all -- had a premeditated design to kill."

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

Note: The above photo of Major Nidal Hasan was provided by the U.S. Army.  

Elmore Leonard Earned His Spurs Writing Westerns

Elmore Leonard was praised and remembered as a writer of westerns by Joe Leyden at Cowboys & Indians.

Although he’s best known these days for his quirky crime fiction, author Elmore Leonard — who passed away Tuesday in Detroit at age 87 — began his writing career as a prolific author of western novels and short stories.

“Most of my early stuff was for the pulps,” he told Cowboys & Indians in a 2007 interview. “All throughout the ‘50s, when they were hot. I wrote 3:10 to Yuma in 1953, when I was 27. I got $90 for it -– two cents a word for a 4,500-word story in Dime Western magazine.
“And let me tell you: In the ‘50s, that wasn’t too bad.”

Justified, the popular FX Network series based on stories and novels by Leonard, often has been referred to as a modern-day western. Executive producers Graham Yost and Michael Dinner — long-time admirers of Leonard’s work — take that description as both a welcome compliment and a fair appraisal.

“If you consider that Elmore started out in westerns — and then, as he puts it, when his stories weren’t selling as much, he moved onto more straightforward crime fiction in the early ‘70s — it’s only natural that our show would have a western flavor,” Yost says. Adds Dinner: “In a way, you’ve got a weird melding of crime thriller and character piece with the feel of a western. It’s not just about the hat on [Raylan Givens, the US marshal played by Timothy Olyphant]. It’s about the rhythms of the piece, and the tone of the piece.”

Leonard’s novels and stories also have served as source material for several more traditional western features and TV movies. Back in 2007, however, he expressed profoundly mixed feelings about director James Mangold’s adaptation of 3:10 to Yuma — starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale — which had previously been filmed in 1957. (“I sure wonder why Christian Bale gets kicked around so much,” he quipped after a preview screening. “I don’t know why he wanted to do the film.”).

To read more about Elmore Leonard's westerns you can go to the lnk below:

Note: It seems to me that the divide between westerns and crime is not that wide.

Elmore Leonard's 3:10 to Yuma, like most westerns, is about lawmen and outlaws. The only difference between most westerns and crime fiction is the western backdrop.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Retired Sailor Guilty Of Attempted Espionage

Scott Daugherty at the Virginian-Pilot reports that Robert Patrick Hoffman was found guilty of attempted espionage.

A retired sailor from Virginia Beach was convicted Wednesday of trying to pass classified information to Russian spies.

Robert Patrick Hoffman II, 40, is set to be sentenced Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court. He faces up to life in prison for the one count of attempted espionage.

It took a jury 90 minutes Wednesday to reach a unanimous verdict and reject Hoffman’s defense that he actually was trying to lure his handlers into a trap.

Hoffman – a petty officer first class who retired in 2011 – passed classified information to undercover FBI agents posing as Russian intelligence officers

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

You can also read the FBI news release on Hoffman's arrest via the below link:

Another Look Back At Elmore Leonard: Crime Paid This Writer, In Dollars And Honors

Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite writers and I was sorry to learn of his death week.

Frank Wilson, my friend and former editor, wrote a good piece on Elmore Leonard last year for the  Philadelphia Inquirer.

'If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

That, says Elmore Leonard, is the rule that sums up his famous "Ten Rules of Writing," a sort of manifesto in miniature on behalf of the plain style (sample: "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip").

Leonard has written 45 novels, starting with The Bounty Hunters in 1953. About half of them have made it to the New York Times' best-seller list, including his latest, Raylan. Seventeen have been made into films, sometimes more than once, most notably 3:10 to Yuma (two versions), Hombre, 52 Pick-up (two versions), and Get Shorty. Quentin Tarantino's third film, Jackie Brown, was based on Leonard's Rum Punch. Then there's the TV series Justified.
So even people who don't read much are likely to be familiar with Leonard's work.

Commercial success as a writer only rarely translates into literary respect, and usually only too late for the writer to enjoy it. But Leonard has garnered some highfalutin fans over the years. Saul Bellow was one. And so is Martin Amis, who calls Leonard's prose "far more stylish" than Raymond Chandler's and says that Leonard is "incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence." In fact, Amis will be the presenter on Wednesday night when Leonard receives the National Book Foundation's 2012 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Army PFC Bradley Manning Sentenced To 35 Years In Prison reports that Army PFC Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The Army soldier who leaked more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, 25, who gave reams of classified information to WikiLeaks, faced up to 90 years in prison. He was credited with 1,294 days already served and was and be dishonorably discharged. He could be eligible for parole before he reaches the age of 40.

You can read the rest of the story and watch the FoxNews TV news clip via the below link:

You can also read the Military District of Washington News Release below:

FORT MEADE, Md., Aug. 21, 2013 - Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning was sentenced here today to 35 years of confinement, reduction to the lowest enlisted rank, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances for his July 30 conviction on a variety of charges related to publication of government information on the WikiLeaks website.

Army Col. Denise Lind, the presiding judge in Manning's general court-martial, granted credit for time served of 1,182 days for pretrial confinement and 112 days of additional pretrial confinement credit.

Manning was tried and sentenced by military judge alone by his request. He pleaded guilty to 10 separate offenses, but ultimately was found guilty of 20 offenses, including seven specifications of wrongful possession and transmission of national defense information, five specifications of theft of government information, two specifications of unauthorized access to a government computer and wrongful possession and transmission of protected government information, five specifications of violation of lawful regulations related to his computer use and storage of classified information, and one specification of wrongful publication of U.S. intelligence information.

The court-martial now is in the post-trial and appellate phase, in which the government will compile a complete and accurate record of the trial and review the findings and sentence, officials said. Manning has the right to petition the convening authority for clemency during the post-trial phase, they added. 


Elmore Leonard, R.I.P.

Otto Penzler, publisher, editor and owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City wrote about his friend Elmore Leonard in National Review Online.

Leonard was the quintessential American crime writer, his prose matching the rhythms of American Jazz — that other uniquely American art form.

His ten rules of writing should be required reading for every student in an MFA program. Though he wrote tough books about tough guys, they were always compassionate; even the bad guys had hearts. This was a reflection of the man himself, a friend for so long, who never had a bad word to say about anyone (except Dustin Hoffman, who stood him up three times while they were trying to work out a movie deal).

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Elmore Leonard via the below link:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Return To Elmoreland: A Look Back At The Great Crime Writer Elmore Leonard

I was saddened to hear that the great crime novelist Elmore Leonard passed away. He was 87.
I briefly met Elmore Leonard when he came to Philadelphia for a reading and answers questions from the audience at the Philadelphia Free Library.

I went to the event with my friend and former editor, Frank Wilson, the retired book editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who introduced Elmore Leonard to the audience that night.

You can read about that night with Elmore Leonard in my column via the below link:

And you can visit Frank Wilson's popular literary blog Books, Inq via the below link:

The Great Crime Writer Elmore Leonard Dies reports that Elmore Leonard, one of my favorite writers, has died. He was 87.

Famed Hollywood writer Elmore Leonard died on Tuesday after suffering a stroke on July 29. He was 87.

Best known for “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight” and most-recently the FX series “Justified,” Leonard was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, his researcher, Gregg Sutter, told FOX411. 
"The post I dreaded to write, and you dreaded to read. Elmore passed away at 7:15 this morning from complications from his stroke. He was at home surrounded by his loving family. More to follow," Sutter posted on Facebook. 

Leonard, winner of an honorary National Book Award in 2012, first rose to fame with the release of his Western-themed novels. His works The “Tall T” and “3:10 to Yuma” were adapted into films. Among Leonard's best-known books turned into movies are “Hombre” and "Rum Punch," which was filmed as "Jackie Brown." His short stories were also turned into several films.

His millions of fans, from bellhops to Saul Bellow, made all his books since "Glitz" (1985) best-sellers.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link: